ARLINGTON, Texas — There was little to complain about from the Broncos' side in their 27-3 victory on the road against Dallas thanks to a terrific offensive and defensive performance.
Latimer breaks free for big gain
Cody Latimer thought he was home free.
He had just caught a three-yard pass. Ho-hum. And then he added on 54 yards after the catch, slipping past an initial desperation diving tackle and sprinting down the right sideline.
But it wasn't 69 yards, which would have been a touchdown. Latimer thought he was going to put six points on the board. Unfortunately, a Cowboys defensive back in hot pursuit managed to take him down at the 12 yard line.
"I felt like I was moving," Latimer said. "The cornerback, safety - whatever he was - had a good angle on me. I should have made a couple moves, a cutback or something, but yeah, I thought I was gonna score."
Alas, though he didn't get the touchdown, he got the assist. His scamper set up the Broncos for a touchdown a couple plays later.
Touchdown or not, Latimer's preseason has had some flashes to it, and the progress has been promising.
In the second preseason game, Latimer stretched out on a route down the right sideline, catching the long pass Brock Osweiler floated to him. He had a 17-yard grab the following week against the Texans. And then on Thursday he had a total of 66 receiving yards.
It's been a bit up and down, as it tends to go for rookies while they get acclimated to the NFL.
"He's really come on, especially the last two weeks. He makes his mistakes. He's a rookie. It happens," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said earlier this week. "As soon as we can get him caught up to the rest of the guys the better. He's got to be ready to go. [...] I think he's progressing well, and we'll just see where he is towards that first game."
For Latimer at this point, it's about fitting in wherever the team needs him to. That flexibility has put him in a good position, including some time with the first team offense.
"It's the mental aspect. The physical part we all can see. The guy has a lot of talent, and there are a lot of things he can bring to this team," Gase said. "Right now, it's just figuring out, 'What do I need to do? What adjustments can I make?'"
The preseason is the best time to work out those kinks, and although four weeks isn't enough time to find perfection, it's been a time of progress for Latimer.
Now that the preseason is over, the margin for error is smaller. But don't think Latimer's feeling that pressure.
He's just focused on picking up the phone when opportunity calls. In the meantime, he's ready for Game 1: "I'm just ready to attack the season now."
Burse joins Latimer with good receiving night
Cory Latimer's big night wasn't the only one for Denver's wide receiving corps. Fellow rookie wideout Isaiah Burse converted a third down, and caught a couple big tosses.
With four catches, he totaled 65 yards, earning plenty of playing time with the offense. His two catches for a total of 42 yards on the final drive of the first half set up the offense for a field goal heading into the break with a 10-3 lead. And later on in the third quarter, Burse's catch in the red zone got them to Dallas' nine yard line, which immediately was followed by Kapri Bibbs' touchdown rumble.
"We practice those scenarios. That's something you have to do. As a wide receiver, you have to get that," Burse said after the game. "You've got to know the situation of the game. If it's third-and-7 and you have a 5-yard route, go 8, go 9. You just have to know the situation. I think the guys, not just me, everybody did their parts tonight and we had a good win."
With so many touches, Burse said he felt at ease on the field Thursday night.
"You get out there and you get reps, you get repetition and you get comfortable. That's all I needed. Not just for me, but for anybody. You throw a guy out there cold for one play, and then you don't play him again for 20 plays, he might not be the same dude. But when you get out there and you're comfortable and you're getting reps in practice and you're getting in the flow of the game, it's kind of like – you get in the zone."
Tony Carter and Louis Young's defensive presence
The in-and-out defensive effort came up big the entire night, but Tony Carter and Louis Young were just two of the guys who had some strong performances against the Cowboys.
Carter's biggest play was an interception on quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first quarter. Weeden rolled out of the pocket to the right on a play-action pass, but Carter snuffed out the pass intended for tight end James Hanna. Sprinting up from his coverage having spied the incoming pass, Carter leapt in front of Hanna for the diving pick.
As it worked out, his interception set up the offense at Dallas' 38 yard line, which quickly turned into a touchdown.
Carter's night didn't end there, as he nearly picked off another pass and deflected another.
Cornerback Louis Young also brought pressure on the quarterback, helping on two sacks on the Cowboys' penultimate offensive possession. Overall, he had three total tackles and a pass deflection.
With Dallas' passing attack scrounging together a meager 3.6 average gain per passing play (including yards lost on sacks), Denver's pass defense's success got significant contributions from these two cornerbacks.